Thursday, December 29, 2016

HipCityVeg, DC #2

Oh, HipCityVeg. After visiting your restaurant in Philadelphia, I wanted nothing else than to have you in my city. A vegan, fast casual restaurant, with unique, delicious sandwiches -- yes, that was what we needed in DC. So, after hearing you were coming to Chinatown, I went down and waited in line on day one -- opening day, June 2016.

There was free food to be had, so the wait was at least 30 minutes and, in the end, we got our food and left. This was many, many months ago. I've been sitting on this review because I was having flashbacks of the Native Foods experience. Native Foods was a great restaurant 20 years ago. After having beens sold and developing low quality chains across the country, they failed miserably. And after opening several restaurants in DC, they all shut down within 1-2 years. It was sad.

After I got back to my office, I pulled my Ziggy Burger out of the bag and dove in. I was so disappointed. It tasted like a plain Gardein burger with thousand island dressing. Later, I confirmed that that is exactly what it was. I can buy a Gardein burger in the grocery store and make it myself. I did not need to pay $10 for that. And the sweet potato fries were limp and way too salty. I began to wonder if this place was another Native Foods.

I also was looking forward to the desserts I got in Philadelphia. So, I ordered a cookies and cream cupcake. Little did I realize, this was a cupcake from Sticky Fingers locally, not from Philly. Sigh. I love Sticky, but I can get that cupcake any day.

So, I didn't go back for six months. Recently, I placed an order with one of many food delivery services, Caviar, to give them another try. If they are using Gardein burgers, then perhaps I should order something that doesn't have faux meat in it. So, I went with the Bistro Bella, which is a grilled portobello mushroom with herb dijon glaze, olive tapenade, red onion, arugula, tomato, and artichokes. Now this one was a winner. And, honestly, I think the tapenade and the fantastic burger bun made the sandwich. Again, I got the sweet potato fries and, again, they were soft, but not too salty this time. The black bean sauce they came with was good, but runny.

I also ordered an Arugula Taco Salad. Unfortunately, it already had the dressing on it and I wanted to eat it the next day. I nixed that idea and had to have it for dinner. It had black beans, grilled corn, pico de gallo, avocado, tortillas, and cilantro dressing. The avocado was almost completely brown when it arrived (I threw most of it away before I took this picture) and the dressing was way too runny. It was meh.

Also, I didn't mention that I got a wrap back when they first opened too that was not good. I can't even remember which one.

In case you weren't counting, I was. That's one good meal out of four. I worry about this as I talk to my friends who have had similar experiences. I only hope they improve the quality of their food as I have high hopes for this chain in DC. I'll keep trying, but I'll only try so many times before I'll throw in the towel. What has been your experience?

712 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 621-8057

HipCityVeg Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I Heart Keenwah - Puffs and Clusters

I Heart Foods, Corp. sent me a box of samples that included their new Quinoa Puffs, Quinoa Clusters, and Chocolate Puffs. This company specializes in making quinoa snacks with great flavors and simple ingredients.

Out of the three snacks they sent, I liked the Quinoa Puffs the best. These round, crunchy puffs are made with natural ingredients including quinoa flour, brown rice flour, white rice flour, pea protein concentrate, sunflower oil, sea salt, and herbs.  Not all of them are vegan, so be careful. Of the four flavors, three are vegan and conveniently marked as such.

I loved them all: Herbs De Provence, Sea Salt Truffle, and Sweet Chili, but the herbs de provence stuck out as my favorite. All the flavors had a lot of crunch and flavor, but are also very salty.  Surprisingly, the sodium per serving size was only 125 mg so not too bad.

I enjoyed the Quinoa Clusters as well, but I don't prefer snacks that have a bunch of seeds and grains all clustered together so that's just a personal preference.

I love that all of these snack are certified gluten free and Non-GMO Project Verified. You can find them on Amazon here or at your local grocery.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Healthee - Rice Packs

There's a new packaged rice on the market. Healthee USA is making organic brown rice meals that are fully cooked and ready to eat in the package. This makes weekday dinners super easy!

There are three flavors. I ate the Turmeric Brown Rice with an Indian meal and loved it. It is a bit sticky and the rice tends to stick to itself, but besides the sticky texture, it's got great flavor. And inside there is just water, brown rice, coconut milk, olive oil, turmeric, and sea salt.

I made the Coconut Brown Rice with some sauteed broccoli rabe.

And the Fried-Style Brown Rice was also pretty tasty.

I love that they are all certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified and made with all natural ingredients. In DC, you will find these rices in Yes! Organic Market. You can also buy them on Amazon here. Bon appetit!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Chocolate Inspirations

One of the best gifts you can give this holiday season is delicious, decadent vegan chocolate. That's exactly what Chocolate Inspirations specializes in. They are not a vegan company, but they do make a lot of vegan chocolate.

They gave me a bunch of samples of their toffees and they are spectacular. The English Toffee, in particular, is so good because of it's soft, buttery texture and outside pecan coating. It's my favorite toffee now!

Their chocolate bars are all good. I don't even know where to start, but I love the Hot Chocolate bar with cacao nibs and the Heart Warming Cinnamon with sea salt.

All are made in small batches and are beautiful. Get some for the person you love in your life and they will love you back, for sure. You can view all of their vegan chocolate here.

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bio-Essere, Arco, Italy

If you are anywhere near Arco, Italy in the northern part of Italy, I highly recommend stopping by Bio-Essere!  It's a quaint cafe with lots of vegan and gluten-free options. It's 100% vegetarian and almost all of the food is vegan.

So, just grab a plate and pile it on, buffet-style. I had to try just about everything from the gazpacho and carrot salad to the tagliolini carbonara and seitan-stuffed zucchini. It was delicious!

And there were so many things to choose from that I felt I should come back again. I didn't expect the selections to be completely different the second time around, but they were! This time I had pasta, Indian-style cauliflower, faux-chicken dish, quinoa salad, and foccacia. It was fantastic.

I also took home one of the best chocolate cakes I had in Italy.

They just weigh your plate and charge you by the pound. Bio means organic and a lot of the food was organic and all of it was fresh. I love this place.

Now, back to wingsuit BASE jumping!

via Santa Caterina 40
Arco 38062
+39 0464 516597

Monday, December 12, 2016

Tessemae's Dressings

I go in and out of my salad phases. Sometimes I love a big salad and sometimes I don't. But, when I do, I always make sure that I'm putting natural dressings on my salad. That's where Tessemae's comes in. Local to Maryland, these all natural dressings, marinades, and dips are delicious.

Take, for example, the Zesty Ranch. Made with almost all organic ingredients, this olive oil-based dressing is loaded with fresh flavor from lemon juice, black pepper, garlic, mustard, onion powder, and spices.

The Green Goddess is another one of my favorites. Made with sunflower oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice, you get the kick of tamari with all of the herbs and spices.

You'll typically find these dressings near the salad in the produce aisle. They are all oil-based and if I had a complaint, I'd say the only one I have is that you really have to shake these when they are full to get the spices to move from the bottom, where they settle, to the top or you just get a bunch of oil on your salad. It's when you get down to the bottom that they are really good because some of the herbs don't come out until the last quarter of the bottle.

They have lots of vegan flavors like Southwest Ranch, Classic Caesar, Lemon Garlic, and Soy Ginger. They even have hot and mild Buffalo Sauce! And I love that they are certified organic. You can buy them for $6.50 each online or four for $26. Find the Classics Pack at Amazon or one by one in your local Whole Foods as well!

Full Disclosure: Although the products were provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tiki Loungebar Vegan Food, Trento, Italy

Strolling along the cobble roads in Trento, Italy, we stumbled upon a vegan cafe called Tiki Lounge Bar -- fancy that. Here I was just talking about whether I'd be able to find vegan food in Italy and lo and behold, we find this. Well, the obvious choice was to have lunch right that moment!

Turns out it is actually a vegetarian cafe. Tiki used to be vegan, but they weren't doing as well with that concept, so they added some vegetarian fare. The cafe is quaint with a few tables inside and lots of seating outside. We took a seat outside and ordered wine...because Italy!

The menu had tons of vegan options and I wasn't sure what to order. There were dishes like: dahl with cauliflower and apricots, burger made with portobello mushrooms, zucchini rolls, pasta, and more!

We started with an appetizer -- the pumpkin with chili and fresh avocado. It was just that. Pumpkin with avocado -- pretty plain, but definitely fresh.

For my entree, I ordered the red beets a la bourguignonne with red lentils and mushrooms. Again, this dish was quite plain, but fresh and satisfying.

So, while I won't rave about the food or service, I'm happy to have found the one veg place in Trento and I'd come back in a heartbeat!  I'm just glad I found this place.

Tiki Vegan Food
Piazza Duomo, 22
Trento 38122
+39 349 639 4658

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Flying Business First Class with United - Vegan

As you all know, I recently took a trip to Italy and Switzerland. I chose to fly on United because it used to be my favorite airline. I also decided to fly business first class for the first time in seven years because a girl has to treat herself sometimes.  Here's my story complete with info on vegan food in United Business First.

I bought my ticket to Zurich, Switzerland two months early and immediately called to ensure I'd have a vegan meal. With United, you can enter a vegan preference in your profile, but "vegan" is not a meal selection when booking a flight. There is vegetarian and vegetarian non-dairy. What does that mean? It sounded to me like it might contain eggs so I called. And I called and I called. Why did I call so much? Because I'm not that trusting when it comes to these things. Every time I was assured that "vegetarian non-dairy" was vegan. Okay, fine. I believed it after the third call.

Fast forward to the day of travel and, of course, my flight gets delayed, then canceled. I was supposed to fly out of DCA (Reagan National) to Newark and eventually to Zurich (ZRH). Instead, I got in a cab and caught a flight out of Dulles (IAD) direct to Zurich (ZRH). This last minute change assured that my bags would not be with me.  But, even worse was that I probably no longer had a vegan meal. So, as soon as I arrived at the gate, I sought help at the counter at which time they said my vegan meal was on board. I knew that was too good to be true because I quickly found out it wasn't. I was instructed to see the Purser, or the head flight attendant, who told me I needed to have ordered that meal 48 hours ahead of time. As I explained to him that I made a last minute flight change, he didn't seem to care, but still immediately went to search for a solution. He said he was able to locate an Indian meal for me and I said that would be great.

The meal started with warm nuts and wine. Yum.

Then, they served my Indian meal, which was tasty, but definitely lacked the presentation of the first class meals. It looked like a coach meal that they plated, but whatever, I can't be picky due to the flight change.

For dessert, while everyone else had hot fudge sundaes, I had grapes. Sigh.

On the way home, similar drama. This time, they offered me a direct flight even though I was scheduled for a connection, but, in the end, I couldn't change my flight because they refused to move my special meal from one plane to another, so I got stuck on the connecting flight itinerary.  This time I was served several courses. It started with a salad, quinoa, and fruit.

Then, roasted veggies and rice with a tangy red sauce.

Then, later, a veggie sandwich with vegan margarine and more fruit.

So, I got vegan food, but it was not nearly as gourmet or extravagant as the meals around me. I felt satisfied, but slighted at having paid the same as everyone else, but not having the same standard of meal. If they serve hot chocolate sundaes, couldn't they have a pint of almond milk ice cream for me too?

So, the lesson learned is that they can do vegan, but don't expect fresh, gourmet meals with several choices like those around you. You'll get to eat, but you'll get less than everyone else. Luckily, all wine is free in first class, so drink up!! And the dessert wine is divine! Just a little advice for United -- it would be nice for you to offer a fresh vegan meal as well as all customers in a similar cabin who paid similar amounts should be treated the same regardless of dietary preferences.

Friday, December 2, 2016

La Fiesta Mexican, Twin Falls, ID

Picture this -- you've spent the day jumping off a bridge with a bunch of awesome people who just want to go out to eat and have a good time. You are in the city of Twin Falls, Idaho -- so where do you go? La Fiesta Mexican is the only right answer!!

This is a short review just to tell you that this is a fun place to go with great margaritas. And they love BASE jumpers! They accommodated our group of like 30 by putting a ton of tables together. We all ordered delicious margaritas. I went with one with Patron -- always a good idea, and we laughed the night away.

The chips and salsa are great and they are happy to keep bringing out more.

For my entree, I went with the same item I always order -- veggie fajitas. They were happy to tell me what was and wasn't vegan so I could modify the accompaniments appropriately.

We spent a long time there -- drinking, eating, and laughing with good food at good prices. Given the size of our party, I'd say the service was great!  This is my favorite dinner spot in Twin Falls!

La Fiesta Mexican
1288 Blue Lakes Blvd. N.
Twin Falls, ID 83301
(208) 734-0685

La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato